San Rafael, CA Economic Overview
San Rafael is the county seat of Marin County, one of the most affluent counties in the United States. Located across the San Francisco Bay from the City of San Francisco, and accessible via the Golden Gate Bridge, San Rafael is home to nearly 60,000 residents. Part of the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan statistical area, the market is known as a 'Gateway to the East' and attracts a significant amount of foreign investment. Businesses are attracted by the talent-rich workforce and investment opportunities of the market, making commercial real estate in San Rafael increasingly in demand and hard to find.
High-tech and the entertainment industries play major roles in the economy of San Rafael. George Lucas of Stars Wars fame put the city on the map as a center for the entertainment industry, with its focus on animation and cutting-edge, state-of-the-art technology. As a result, video game developers and major studios are attracted to San Rafael and Marin County.
With a median household income of over $77,000 and a growing job base, households here earn over 50% more money than the U.S. average and nearly 30% more than the State of California as a whole. Income growth in San Rafael is expected to remain strong as companies find the city an attractive, more affordable alternative to the higher-priced commercial real estate of San Francisco and upper Silicon Valley.
San Rafael, CA Commercial Real Estate Market
The continued growth of the San Rafael commercial real estate market is driven in large part by the San Francisco MSA, with Fortune 500 companies such as Wells Fargo, Charles Schwab, PG&E, and Gap, Inc., all headquartered here. The San Rafael office market benefits from the exceptional performance of the job market, the demand for industrial flex space is driven by high-tech, green energy and bio-technology companies, and the overall retail market in San Rafael benefits from Marin County's wealth.
According to a recent analysis by the local brokerage firm of Keegan & Coppin Real Estate, rental rates in Marin County and San Rafael across all asset classes are moving upward and vacancy rates are pushing downward, due to the expensiveness of commercial space in the San Francisco North Bay area. Demand for office and industrial space in San Rafael and the County continues to increase as both traditional, high-technology and bio-technology tenants seek out more price effective options.
While the vacancy rate of industrial property in Marin County hovers at around 3%, office vacancies are running closer to 17% due to the functional obsolescence of older product. Private investors are increasingly attracted to industrial and flex industrial property due to its low turnover, while institutional investors have the capital to update, re-purpose and reposition major office property in San Rafael and in Marin County.
San Rafael, CA Office Rental Rates ($/SF/year)
Data provided by Yardi Matrix, for properties larger than 50K SF.
San Rafael, CA Office Sales
Data provided by Yardi Matrix, for properties larger than 50K SF, which sold at over $5M.
San Rafael, CA Commercial Inventory Breakdown
Total: 3,040,924 SF
By square footage range:
- 50k to 100k SF: 1,116,116 SF / 36.7% of total office
- 100k to 500k SF: 1,924,808 SF / 63.3% of total office
- Class A: 179,836 SF / 5.91% of total office
- Class B: 2,431,042 SF / 79.94% of total office
- Class C: 150,650 SF / 4.95% of total office
Total: 130,000 SF
By square footage range:
- 100k to 500k SF: 130,000 SF / 100% of total industrial
- Class A: 130,000 SF / 100% of total industrial
Employment in San Rafael, CA
Job growth in San Rafael has increased by nearly 2%, with an unemployment rate of under 4%. Nearly 50% of the labor force works in the areas of management, education, business and finance, sales, and administration. Major employers in San Rafael and Marin County include Kaiser Permanente with over 1,800 employees; Marin General Hospital with 1,100; Fireman's Fund Insurance Company with 950 workers; Autodesk with nearly 900; BioMarin Pharmaceutical with over 870 employees; Safeway with over 800 workers; Comcast with over 600; and Macy's, Bradley Real Estate, MHN, Dominican University of California, and Wells Fargo.
As part of the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward metropolitan statistical area, San Rafael also benefits from Fortune 500 and innovative technology company employers such as Salesforce, PG&E, Charles Schwab, McKesson, Twitter, Uber, LinkedIn, Google, Dolby, Yelp, and Visa.
Education in San Rafael, CA
The San Rafael City Schools District and the Dixie School District operate the majority of public elementary and middle schools in the city. The two comprehensive public high schools of San Rafael High and Terra Linda High are governed by San Rafael City Schools. There are also numerous private schools in San Rafael, including Mark Day School, Marin Academy, Brandeis Marin, and 3R School.
There is one university within San Rafael, the Dominican University of California. Thanks to its nearness to the City of San Francisco, residents of San Rafael also have easy commuting access to the outstanding universities in the San Francisco Bay Area, including Stanford and UC Berkeley.
Commuting Time in San Rafael, CA
Residents of San Rafael and the Bay Area hold the distinction of having the 3rd-worst traffic congestion in the country, right behind Los Angeles and Honolulu, Hawaii. While the average commuter spends nearly 26 minutes traveling to work, times can vary wildly, and nearly 3% of the residents in San Rafael have super commute times of 90 minutes or more.
Knowing that time wasted sitting in traffic could be put to more productive uses, only 61% of the work day commuters in San Rafael drive alone, while nearly 25% carpool or utilize public mass transit.
- U.S. Route 101 connects the northern part of the Bay Area to San Francisco and Interstate 580 provides access to the East Bay.;
- Ferries provide service across the Bay to San Francisco, while the Sanoma-Marin Area Rail Transit system provides public transit service from the Sonoma County airport to the San Rafael Transit Center which is a hub for Marin Transit buses.;
- San Rafael is served by both the San Francisco and Oakland International Airports, as well as the Charles M. Schulz - Sonoma County Airport just north of Marin County.
San Rafael Demographics
- Total Population59,180
- Male Population(50.1 %) 29,623
- Female Population(49.9 %) 29,557
- Median Age41.30
- Average Household Income$133,068
- Median Household Income$85,931
- Median Income Under 25$39,097
- Median Income 25-44$89,547
- Median Income 45-64$104,824
- Median Income Over 65$70,771
Residential Rents in San Rafael, CA
As with other parts of California, the residential rental market in San Rafael has been increasing over the years. Nearly 50% of the residents in the city are renters, making San Rafael a larger rental market by percentage than Marin County and the San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward MSA.
As the population growth in San Rafael increases so does the demand for rental housing. Over the past year, the number of rentals has increased by nearly 40%. Median rents in San Rafael start at about $1,500 per month for a one-bedroom unit and reach over $4,000 monthly for a three-bedroom unit.
San Rafael, CA Average Rental Price, September 2019
- $ 2,531/mo
- Studio: $ 1,724
- 1 Bedroom: $ 2,288
- 2 Bedrooms: $ 2,806
San Rafael, CA Rent Trends
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